Benzema confident of Madrid’s European hopes

Milan (AFP) – Karim Benzema said on Tuesday Real Madrid should fear no-one as they prepare for their latest tilt at Champions League with their opening match at Inter Milan this week.

France forward Benzema, 33, has been in blistering form for Madrid under new coach Carlo Ancelotti, scoring five times in four La Liga appearances and setting up four more.

The 13-time European champions are among the traditional giants under threat by the immense wealth of Premier League clubs and Paris Saint-Germain, the latter of whom brought in a raft of stars in the close season as they attempt to finally win the game’s biggest prize.

Madrid reached the semi-finals last season and Benzema believes they have what it takes to go all the way this time round ahead of Wednesday’s match at the San Siro.

“The Champions League is the highest level of competition, where the pressure is at its very highest, and it’s not like we’re behind the other teams,” said Benzema.

“Every team has its strengths, any team could win, but in the end when we’re playing each other on the pitch there are no favourites — anyone can beat anyone. 

“We’re here, we have a strong side and we’re going to fight to win this Champions League.”

Benzema rattled in a hat-trick in the weekend’s 5-2 win over Celta Vigo and seems to have struck up a fruitful partnership with Vinicius Junior, with the previously erratic Brazilian forward scoring four times alongside his more experienced partner, who seems to be improving with age.

Asked whether a Ballon d’Or could be within his grasp, Benzema said: “It’s not something I lose sleep over”.

“Every player dreams of winning a Ballon d’Or, but in the end the most important thing is the team… Everyone wants to win Ballon d’Ors, including me.”

Ancelotti brings a wealth of European experience back to his old stomping ground of the San Siro, where with AC Milan he won the old European Cup twice as a player before then leading Inter’s city rivals to the Champions League twice as coach.

The 62-year-old is on the hunt for his second triumph in the competition with Madrid after claiming the club’s 10th top European crown in 2014, but is also wary of an Inter side which up to now has handled well the loss of star players and league title-winning coach Antonio Conte.

“We played well against Celta but tomorrow is another story, another competition which Real Madrid fans love… Tomorrow is a difficult game, Inter have the same structure as last year, they’re doing well with a different manager and different players,” said Ancelotti.

“We’re going to try and start the competition well because it is very special.”

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